21 Jun 2013

Shush: the Afghan War is over. Did anybody tell you?

By Richard Cottrell: If the stooge Afghan president Hamid Karzai has not yet packed his bags, it may be a wise precaution given the sudden turn of events in that war-ravaged country. The United States and the Taliban are about to break bread in Doha, capital of the pocket desert state of Qatar, to wrap up the 12-year-long re-run of the Vietnam War.
We have not yet reached the Saigon Moment, helicopters flapping off the roof of the US embassy festooned with clinging refugees. But events into which the US drags itself have an uncanny way of repeating themselves.
What we know for certain is the following: US officials will take part in direct talks with the Taliban leadership, with the purpose of bringing hostilities to an end on both sides. Since the Western coalition has not actually defeated the Taliban, the situation comes uncomfortably close to the one generally called ‘unconditional surrender.’
In technical terms, the war games are over, since the dwindling band of NATO participants has officially handed responsibility for the country’s defense back to the lack-luster, ill trained rag tag Afghan army. A line from Shakespeare’s Henry V just before Agincourt seems appropriate: ‘Let those that hath no stomach for this fight, take their passports and depart!’

You bet.
The lowly paid enlisted men of an army which on paper has strength of about 750,000 will melt away like the morning mists in the Hindu Kush.
Just like General Westmoreland and his famous ‘victory is just around the corner’ sermons from the Asian jungle, we’ve been hearing from one US commander after another that the Taliban are ‘in retreat,’ ‘exhausted,’ ‘the army is fit to take full responsibility’ and similar such wishful thinking.
The Army of the Republic of Vietnam, which the US armed and schooled to fight the Vietcong, folded in about five minutes once the last GI departed. So it will be with the mighty host trained and armed by NATO to hold the fort in Afghanistan. Possibly shorter.
The Taliban doesn’t have much to put on the table, since the western side has already thrown down the ace. There will no insistence on the victors breaking ties with the al-Qaeda, which for those with exceptionally long memories, is how the war started in the wake of 9/11.
Some ace. Or is it?
There are many who suspect that Al-Qaeda is a phantom, or at best, a continuation of the guerrilla force established by the United States to fight Russians when they occupied the country back in the 1980s. Al-Qaeda translates broadly as ‘The Platform’ or perhaps better, ‘The Base.’ Bin Laden, who fought in its ranks, was known as ‘The Archer’ for his skills in attacking Russian armor with rifle-fired grenades.

Don’t be impressed by all the talk of the Taliban being forced to accept many western-imposed reforms, such as schooling for girls, the joys of listening to Rap and such like. The Taliban cannot be forced to answer for their hold on the country once the invaders depart. They can sign up to any empty paper promise on offer, and promptly file it in the little round filing cabinet in the next instant.
Yet these talks will have substance. The important issues that I see are the following.
Afghanistan is, in many respects, wrecked. There may be a demand for compensation from the wreckers. That compensation interestingly may take several forms. One of them is oil.
This war started because negotiations with the Taliban broke down over way leaves for oil pipelines to cross Afghan territory. Almost up to the last moment of the invasion Taliban representatives were holding complex discussions in Washington, which at various stages had borne the promise of success.
The talks collapsed because the US demanded a precondition that the precious lifelines should be directly guarded by foreign (American) troops, which the Taliban resolutely refused to accept, on the grounds it would represent a de facto occupation force.
It is once again crucial to western strategic interests to secure safe transit for Caspian oil across Afghan territory, more so given the passing of twelve years and a bloody war which failed to gain its one strategic target: the pipelines.
There will be a lot of huff and puff in the steamy heat of Qatar, but make no mistake these discussions will be all about oil. The Taliban line is likely to be something along the lines of, ‘we’ll take the pipelines, we’ll guard them and you’ll pay us handsomely for the privilege.’ Translation: reparations.
Thus it is the Taliban which is really holding the big ace in the game. This is not even poker ‘pay to see you.’ Both sides at the table know what is in the winning hand.
Let’s see what history has to suggest as our guide to the future. In January 1973 the Paris peace accords were signed by the US and the Vietcong, supposedly to guarantee Vietnamese freedom and independence from foreign interference. Two years later, in April 1975, Saigon fell. The Vietnam War did not achieve a single strategic target or political aim and so it will be with the repeat performance in Afghanistan.
In military terms, the US did not learn the most important lesson from Vietnam. Number one: never fight an asymmetrical war against an enemy who lives off the land and is harbored by the locals. (Two great Chinese strategists, Confucius and Sun Tzu said the same some 2,000 years ago).
The Russians lost a long and futile war for the same reasons. The NATO host was going to succeed because it promised to bring an entire people back from the Stone Age. Well now they have their iPods. The narcotics trade is prospering as never before, and soon they’ll have the revenues from those nice shiny pipelines.
Game set: and lost.
Did I forget to mention that the busy BilderBees met in the UK this month?’
Edited by Madison Ruppert
Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and former European MP (Conservative).


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